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Possible cancer risk from gold mine waste

March 22, 2012 at 5:03 PM   |   Comments

BALLARAT, Australia, March 22 (UPI) -- Exposure to arsenic in soil and gold mine waste may have led to a slight increase in cancer risk in the Goldfields region of Victoria, Australia, a report says.

Researchers from the University of Ballarat said the incidence of some cancers between 1984 and 2003 was slightly higher in areas with higher arsenic levels.

After analyzing 20 years of data from the Victorian Cancer Registry and measures of soil arsenic, researcher Dora Pearce said ongoing monitoring of environmental sources of arsenic is needed.

"Arsenic is naturally occurring around gold mineralization and is even used as an indicator in gold exploration, so it can be concentrated in soil and mine waste dumps that are still scattered across our landscape," she said.

Many current residential communities have grown up around historical gold mining areas in Victoria.

"Our previous research detected small traces of arsenic in toenail clippings from children living in this region, showing that exposure to arsenic in soil could be an ongoing problem and that we should not be too complacent," Pearce said Thursday in a release.

"We hope that by raising community awareness of this issue, childhood exposures to arsenic in soil, and future cancer risk, will be reduced in the Goldfields region of Victoria."

The research was published in the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology.

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